FICTION

Love, Death & Rare Books

Delphinium. Mar. 2020. 350p. ISBN 9781883285852. $26.95. F
COPY ISBN
A bookseller’s son struggles toward both personal and professional fulfillment in this latest from Hellenga (emeritus, English, Knox Coll., The Confessions of Frances Godwin). Gabe Johnson, third-generation proprietor of Chas. Johnson & Son, Ltd., Antiquarian Booksellers, a Chicago institution, has inherited the bookshop after his father’s passing, but the rent is unmanageable. He takes to heart his father’s advice: “Live your life, don’t just read about it,” and relocates to a beach house in St. Anne, MI, and considers selling books online. Olivia, a former flame, visits seeking respite from a lymphoma diagnosis. Gabe won’t repeat the mistake of letting her get away this time, but it’s challenging to love her in the moment while confronting her eventual passing. Hellenga imbues his prose with a fervent bibliographic love. However, character arcs are subsumed by effusive descriptive bibliography and doctorate-level literary references. The assumed familiarity with the works the author mentions will overwhelm the uninitiated.
VERDICT A deep dive into the antiquarian book market, this is best suited for hard-core bibliophiles and literati.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to 8000+ annual reviews of books, ebooks, and more

As low as $13.50/month